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En Garde! Avantgarde Retro…Something

16 July, 2019

Via the wonderful Slack community for Paul Beakly’s Indie Game Reading Club my interest was peaked by the mention of an ancient (in roleplaying archeological terms) game by Darryl Hany and Frank Chadwick called En Garde!
Yes, with an exclamation point.
Hard to believe that En Garde! is nearly as old as the original D&D, with the first edition published by GDW in 1975. The game, subtitled “Being in the Main a Game of the Life and Times of a Gentleman Adventurer and his Several Companions”, is a strange mix of roleplaying and strategy game set in the 1600s Paris. Think The Three Musketeers and you’ve got it. But, like D&D, it seems that it’s an oldie that just won’t go away. It’s still being sold these days in its 4th edition by a British publisher—you can read more about the game’s history on the publisher’s site, it’s fascinating stuff.

How…what?

In the game you create a character—by rolling dice on several tables, obviously—which you then try to progress in Parisian social and military life. All characters have a social level and the game is about raising this level over months, and possibly years (in game time), by accumulating status points. You may start out as a piss-poor peasant son with no money, no inheritance and possibly no future. Or you may be lucky to be born into a noble rich family and start the game with a boat load of cash and a social level to match.
In the game I’m playing in, a play-by-post game, which the game is perfectly suited to, I rolled a peasant’s son. The best I can say is that he happens to be the first son in his family, which raises his social level a tiny bit and provides him with an eeny-weeny more funding from the outset. But not much.
You get status points by doing a lot of stuff—basically you describe what your character is doing week by week over a four-week period and at the end of the month the score is calculated, also sometimes based on dice rolls to see how well, for example, the character’s attempt at joining a military regiment or courting a lady goes. At the same time, you are also trying to earn an income so you can pay your monthly expenses—believe me, living in Paris in 1610, even in a shitty room in the worst area, is expensive.
Money does get you a long way. You can join a regiment and immediately pay a lump sum to get an officer’s rank, like Captain, Major or even higher. Being in a regiment earns you a monthly income.
If you are skint, you can try and suck up to one of the wealthier characters, called to “toady”, and perhaps they will invite you to their club and hoopla, your social level is already improving. Or you can visit a money lender and borrow some money, although I would advise against it. The interest payment are killing.
You can visit a brothel or court a lady companion. That also will cost you.

It’s pretty neat.


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